Promise of improved health care for elderly

THE elderly will get better health care, residential services and transport to day care centres under proposals published yesterday.

But legislators and social workers described the recommendations in a 265-page government working group report as 'window dressing'.

They said the report missed key issues, such as the Comprehensive Social Security Assistance scheme.

One member of the group said it had 'not done a thorough job'.

The report by the Working Group on Care for the Elderly released yesterday contained 71 recommendations to improve services for the elderly and assist old people to live in the community 'with dignity'.

The recommendations, some announced by Governor Chris Patten in his policy address, focus on housing, social security, community support services, residential care and health care for the elderly.


The package will cost the Government $36.7 million in 1995-96 in recurrent terms. The amount will rise to $144.7 million in 1999-2000. A total one-off capital cost of $327.5 million will be injected before all recommendations are fully implemented by 1998-99.

One of the highlights is the setting-up of a $200 million elderly services department fund to provide grants to about 10 non-governmental organisations for the elderly.

An organisation could be granted up to 50 per cent of its operating costs in the first year of operation, and 30 per cent in the second and third years before it became self-financed, it was suggested.

Another $50 million would be earmarked to help private old people's homes to upgrade their fire safety requirements to pass the new residential care home control scheme.


To facilitate these homes, new nursing homes and courses will also be provided.

Other recommendations include: Establishing an elderly services division under the Health and Welfare Branch to co-ordinate and oversee the overall policy on caring for elderly people; Conducting a study of the residential care and community support needs of elderly people; Giving extra vans and supplying drivers to day care centres; Setting up a multi-disciplinary team to provide an intensive outreach service for street sleepers; Providing 12 extra home help teams; Setting up an integrated central list for residential services to make it easier for the elderly to apply for admission to infirmaries, nursing homes, care-and-attention homes, homes for the aged or self-care hostels.


Jacqueline Willis, Deputy Secretary for Health and Welfare, said not only the grassroots elderly, but also the sandwich class would benefit.

'There are people in the community who have few options but may need similar types of services which are not available because priority is necessarily given to those of low income.

'But as a result of the recommendations, the quality of life of everyone will be improved,' she said.


Principal Assistant Secretary for Health and Welfare, Stephen Fisher, said the working group did not believe the Comprehensive Social Security Assistance scheme needed reviewing separately.

However, Professor Nelson Chow Wing-sun, a member of the working group, said he was extremely disappointed the scheme was not included in the report.

The report, approved by the Executive Council, will be submitted to the Legislative Council for funding approval.